Singers from Shanghai

The biggest city in Greater China, population-wise, is Shanghai. Despite its humungous crowds it has failed to provide many pop stars over the years. But things are looking up for the metropolis. There are at least four significant Shanghainese singers now. Although the people of Shanghai tend to be quite patriotic about their city (perhaps because it’s one of the wealthiest in Greater China), many of them seem ignorant about who their own local pop stars are, and when you tell them their names, they express surprise, not knowing that the said star was Shanghainese.

The major Shanghainese pop stars are Anson Hu, Isabelle Huang, Jacky Xue, and Kym.


Anson Hu


Chinese Name: 胡彦斌
Mandarin Name: Hú Yàn Bīn
(b. 1983 in Shanghai, China)

Biggest Hits:

進行式 (with Elva Xiao)
男人 KTV

Anson Hu was admitted into the Shanghai Music Conservatory when he was 13. He majored in singing. He won the silver medal at the Shanghai Music Awards New Singer Competition enabling him to sign a recording contract with Go East Entertainment. He released his successful debut album in 2002. The following year he released his sophomore effort, Upgrade 4147. One of its songs was a duet with pop diva Elva Xiao and made the year-end charts in Taiwan. Hu has won many music awards over the past several years and has switched record labels, now with Gold Label Records. In 2007 he appeared as guest artist at Gigi Leung’s concert in Shanghai.


Isabelle Huang


Chinese Name: 黄龄
Mandarin Name: Huáng Líng
(b. 1987 in Shanghai, China)

Biggest Hits:



Isabelle has released a couple of albums, her debut being Itch. She sponsored Reebok products in advertising and recorded the song “I Am What I Am” for the company. She also sang a song for the launch of clothing line Shanghai Tang as well as the theme song for EA Games SIMS2. She cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony of the EA Games shop at Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak.




Chinese Name: 金莎
Mandarin Name: Jīn Shā
(b. 1983 in Shanghai, China)

Biggest Hits:

发现爱 (with JJ Lin)

Kym started with a role in the drama Sky in 2003. That year, she also appeared in an A-do music video. The following year, she signed with Ocean Butterflies Music and released her debut album, Air. She performed three duets with JJ Lin who is under the same label. One of these 发现爱 “Finding Love” was a chart-topper.


Jacky Xue

Chinese Name: 薛之谦
Mandarin Name: Xuē Zhī Qiān
(b. 1983 in Shanghai, China)

Biggest Hits:

认真的雪 “Attentive Snow”
深深爱过你 “Deeply in Love with You”

Shanghai native Jacky Xue appeared on the Mainland’s first televised singing competition My Show before the hugely popular Super Girl took off. His unique voice, ability to compose music, and his skilled dance moves helped him win champion standing. He abandoned his pursuit of a career in hotel management which he’d studied in Switzerland and signed a record deal with the prestigious Sony BMG. His debut, self-titled album was released in 2006. The single “Attentive Snow” became a number one hit in China and remained at the top of the charts for five straight weeks. Japanese music legend Shinji Tanimura, was so impressed with Jacky’s music, that he invited him to the Osaka Music Festival

Two years later, Jacky released his second album Deeply In Love With You. Its title-track became his second number one hit. Xue recorded two versions of the song: a classical style and a modern arrangement. He held a concert in Shanghai and a DVD was released shortly thereafter.


For Chinese New Year 2011, three of these singers and some other local celebreties appeared in a rap music video: “I Love Shanghai” and sang in Mandarin, English, and Shanghainese.

Chinese-Canadian Singers

It’s difficult to identify famous Chinese-Canadian singers because many of them don’t declare whether or not they are, in fact, Canadian citizens. There are Chinese who live in Canada, some of whom are citizens, some permanent residents, and some just in the country on student or some other form of visas. Others are in the opposite situation. They are Canadian citizens but they don’t live in Canada. This is especially true for singers because they are more accepted in the Chinese entertainment industry and therefore relocate to Asia. Some of these are born in Canada but live abroad their whole lives and whether or not they are Canadian citizens is a mystery. Of those who are citizens, some are naturalized Canadians (move here after birth and become citizens) and some are citizens from birth (because one or both parents are). There are also a number of “mixed-blood beauties” (as they are known in China). One parent is Chinese and one is not. Yes, it’s complicated. What we’ll do is list all singers who have both Canadian and Chinese connections and specify what we know about their “status” as Canadians and as Chinese.

Angus Tong 童安格

Angus, born in Taiwan, emigrated to Canada at some point later in his career. It is not known whether or not he has become a citizen.

Leslie Cheung 张国荣

Leslie, born in Hong Kong, took a five-year break from his high-profile entertainment career by emigrating to Vancouver. In 1992, he became a Canadian citizen. He returned to Asia in 1995 to resume his singing and acting. He committed suicide in Hong Kong in 2003.

Angela Zhang (a.k.a. Chang) 张韶涵

Angela, born in Taiwan, went to high school in Vancouver. Afterwards she returned to Taiwan to launch her singing (and acting) career. There is no indication that she became a Canadian citizen while studying in Canada.

Jason Chan 陈柏宇

Jason was born in Hong Kong but grew up in the Toronto area. It appears that he is a Canadian citizen.


Calvin Chen 陈奕儒

Calvin was born in Taiwan. After high school there, he attended Simon Fraser University in the Vancouver area. He completed his Master’s degree at the University of Victoria. In 2004 he returned to Taiwan and in 2005 became a member of the boy band Fahrenheit there.


Elva Xiao 萧亚轩

Elva, born in Taibei, went to college in Vancouver. It is unknown whether or not she became a Canadian citizen. Naturally, after becoming famous, she returned to Taiwan.

Peter He (a.k.a. Ho) 何润东

Peter is often mistaken for a Canadian because he attended college in Ontario. But he is an American-born Chinese.

Catalina Yue

Catalina is one of the few Chinese-Canadians who has released a recognized English-language album—Eternally in 2008. She was born in Toronto and is a Canadian citizen.

Henry Lau 刘宪华

Henry was born in Toronto. His mother’s Taiwanese and his father’s a Hong Konger. As far as we know he’s a Canadian citizen. Henry is part of the Korean boy band Super Junior-M.

Vivian Chow 周慧敏

Vivian emigrated to Vancouver from Hong Kong after she retired from her singing career. It is unknown whether or not she has become a Canadian citizen.

Sally Yeh 叶蒨文

Sally was born in Taibei, Taiwan but grew up in Vancouver. She’s a Canadian citizen.

Kelvin Kwan 关楚耀

Kelvin was born in Canada, growing up in Toronto. All indications are that he is a Canadian citizen. He relocated to Hong Kong after fame graced his life.

Charlene Choi 蔡卓妍

Charlene was born in Vancouver but moved to Hong Kong with her family only a few years later. She grew up in Hong Kong and became famous, joining the group Twins. It is a mystery as to whether or not she has Canadian citizenship.

Edison Chen 陈冠希

Edison was born in Vancouver and is a Canadian citizen. After fame came his way, he relocated to Hong Kong.

Jade Kwan 关心妍

Jade was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Vancouver. As far as we know, she’s a Canadian citizen. After she became famous, she moved back to Hong Kong.

Nicholas Tse 谢霆锋

Nicholas was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Vancouver. He has dual Canadian and Hong Kong citizenship. He currently lives in Hong Kong.

Jacky Zhu (a.k.a. Chu) 祝钒刚

As far as we know, Jacky was born in Canada, grew up in Vancouver, and is a Canadian citizen. He moved to Taiwan when he became famous and joined the band 183 Club.

Denise Ho 何韵诗

Denise was born in Hong Kong and moved to Montreal with her family when she was 11. She received the rest of her education there and became a Canadian citizen. She moved back to Hong Kong when she became famous.

Melissa O’Neil 奧詩敏

Melissa is half Chinese (from her mother). She was the winner of the third season of Canadian Idol in 2005 and released an album that year which went gold. Her song “Alive” was a chart-topper (#1) and the single was certified 4x Platinum in Canada. Other hits included “Let It Go” (#7) and “Speechless” (#31). She is now in a Toronto band called God Made Me Funky.

The Four Kings

After the boom in the music industry in the late 80s, record companies in Hong Kong became greedy. Logically, if a singer had fans, they would buy his albums no matter how good or bad the music was, so they began demanding singers record many albums of mediocre songs. In 1990, the music took a nose dive; few good songs sounded over the airwaves.

In order to salvage the Cantonese pop scene from certain doom, the market ploy was adopted the following year of appointing “Four Heavenly Kings” of Cantopop. In 1991, the four most renowned male singers in Hong Kong were identified and given the title. Although the actual vocal abilities of a couple of them can be called into question, the marketing scheme worked. Of course, they were manufactured kings in that record companies sent the best songs from the composers to them.

The Four Kings were:

The Singing Pop Star: Jacky Cheung
The Acting Pop Star: Andy Lau
The Dancing Pop Star: Aaron Kwok
The Teen Idol Pop Star: Leon Lai

It was Jacky Cheung, already an established singer by this time, who eventually came to be regarded as the second biggest Chinese singer of all time (after Teresa Deng).

Jacky Cheung


Chinese Name: 张学友
Cantonese Name: Cheung Hok Yau
Mandarin Name: Zhāng Xúeyǒu
(b. 1961 in Hong Kong)

Biggest Hits:

情已逝 “Love Is Gone”
每天爱妳多一些 “Love You a Little More Each Day”
吻别 “Goodbye Kiss”

Jacky Cheung was working as a reservations clerk for Cathay Pacific when he entered a singing contest along with 10,000 people in Hong Kong in 1984. He won and was immediately signed by Polygram (now Universal). His first big hit appeared the following year—”Love Is Gone”. The retirements of Leslie Cheung and Alan Tam in 1989 cleared the way for Cheung to take the lead role for male singers in Hong Kong. As he was being named one of the four kings in 1991, he released a megahit called “Love You a Little More Each Day”, a translated version of the Japanese Southern All Stars hit “Midsummer Fruit”.

On March 5th, 1993, Jacky Cheung released his fifth Mandarin album, entitled Goodbye Kiss. The title track is regarded by many as the second biggest Chinese pop song of all time after Teresa Deng’s “The Moon Represents My Heart”. (In 2004, Danish rock band Michael Learns to Rock released an English version of the song called “Take Me to Your Heart”.) Cheung’s Goodbye Kiss album sold five million copies, becoming the best-selling Chinese language album in history, a record that has yet to be broken. The success of the album prompted many Hong Kong singers to begin releasing Mandarin albums, realizing that, in doing so, they could reach a much larger market.

At the 1994 Billboard Music Awards in the United States, Jacky was declared the biggest singer in all of Asia. The following year he embarked on a record-breaking 100-show world-tour. He was given the Golden Needle Award by RTHK (lifetime-achievement recognition). In 2007, he broke his own record with a 105-show world tour in 58 cities.

Jacky Cheung has sold 60 million albums worldwide.

Andy Lau


Chinese Name: 刘德华
Cantonese Name: Lau Tak Wah
Mandarin Name: Liú Déhuá
(b. 1961 in Hong Kong)

Biggest Hits:

可不可以 “Would It Be Possible?”


Andy Lau grew up fetching water for his family several times a day because their house was not equipped with plumbing. When he was 20, he signed up for an artist training program put on by TVB and began acting in TV dramas. His good looks and exposure increased his popularity and he was soon taking on the lead roles in many television series. But in the late 80s, Lau left due to contract disputes. TVB wanted him to sign a five-year contract. He refused, so they blacklisted him making it difficult for him to find employment with other networks. He decided to focus on his film career. He has starred in some of China’s biggest movies.

Andy had released an album in 1985 but it was barely noticed. In 1990, he became a big name singer with the song “Would It Be Possible?” His singing career took off from there and he managed at least one song in the Top 10 Year-End charts (RTHK) in Hong Kong every year until 2006 (with the exception of 2004). His name appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records for “Most Awards Won by a Cantopop Male Artist”. In 2010 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of New Brunswick, Canada.

Lau is a big supporter of the Paralympic Games and practices Chinese calligraphy.

Leon Lai


Chinese Name: 黎明
Cantonese Name: Lai Ming
Mandarin Name: Lí Míng
(b. 1966 in Beijing, China)

Biggest Hits:


Leon Lai, whose name literally means “dawn”, was one of the first pop stars originally from Mainland China. He was born in Beijing and his parents divorced when he was four. With his Malaysian father, he migrated to Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution. When he was fifteen, he studied in England for two years. When he returned to Hong Kong, he became a salesman for a cell phone company.

After doing well in a singing contest, Capitol Records offered him a contract, but they delayed releasing an album from him for four years. As a result, he jumped ship to Polygram (now known as Universal Music). He released his first album Leon, but did not attain superstardom until his second release, Meeting in the Rain. Later, he began dabbling in electronic pop and became the first Chinese singer to enter the Top 10 in Korea. In 1999 he announced he would no longer accept any more awards in Hong Kong.

Aaron Kwok


Chinese Name: 郭富城
Cantonese Name: Kwok Fu Shing
Mandarin Name: Guō Fùchéng
(b. 1965. in Hong Kong)

Biggest Hits:

我为何让你走 “Why did I Let You Go?”
Para Para Sakura
对你爱不完 “Loving You Forever”

After graduating from high school, Kwok worked for a jewellery company in the tradition of his family; however, in 1984, he took up dancing at TVB and was immediately recognized. He performed in a number of music videos and variety shows. He was then invited to play parts in various TV dramas. But it was a TV commercial he did for Honda motorcycles in 1990 that gained him popularity in Taiwan. This led to his releasing three Mandarin albums and his first hit was “Loving You Forever”. After his success on the island, he returned to Hong Kong to do Cantopop. His first big hit there was “Why Did I Let You Go?” Kwok has been the recipient of over a hundred music awards and has held over 200 concerts around the world. With his massive earnings, he has collected a number of sports cars.